Family road trips are an iconic part of American culture. Road trips are as American as apple pie and yet for the longest time I despised them, like really despised them. But after years of trial and error, I have finally found the secret to a successful and fun family road trip. It really is totally doable. Kids love fun, and a family road trip should absolutely be focused on the journey, the time spent together and the fun to be had!
It’s no secret we love hanging with and traveling with our kids. They are fun, they are happy, eager for adventure and, for the most part, fun to be around.
Now that’s not to say they are little angels, and that they never fight, or get rowdy … they for sure have their moments. But as seasoned travelers, we have learned how to minimize the amount of hell we have to endure.
Here are our top tips to ensure you have your best chance at an uneventful, peaceful and joyous family trip during this holiday season.
My children love to eat. They love to eat so much that literally all they need for a successful trip is a constant food source. But, I’ve known other families for whom food is simply a sustenance thing (imagine that) and for all those like them (there can’t be that many of you, really) I have the number one tip: avoid the hangry child, or spouse. Hangry, for those that don’t know, is the person who gets angry and grumpy because they are hungry, aka “starving” in our family. Feed your kids snacks throughout the day. An apple, some cheese sticks (gross), some dried fruit, Twizzlers … whatever their little bodies need to keep them happy, feed it to them.
We are not a big electronics family, although I write this as four of my children are playing a video game. When we break out all the tablets and such, our kids are mesmerized, for a time. When that fascination ends, we have crayons and coloring books, school books (ha ha), movies, travel games, and real live books! Even old school games, like “I Spy” and “The Alphabet Game” keep their attention. This last trip in October, I sat down with my three youngest girls and we built a playlist of their favorite songs … this was a huge hit! Now, I’ll have you know that the majority of our travel occurs in an RV, hence, we literally have the kitchen sink with us, but, I feel your pain. Give these tricks a try and if all else fails, buy an RV!
I go against the grain here, as in most of life, but I’m actually going to go out on a limb and suggest you travel in the wee hours of the morning or late at night … you know, the hours your children are most likely sleeping. Leaving at 4 a.m. gives us the opportunity to drive at least 3 hours in total silence before the kids start to stir…don’t judge, we are a homeschooling family, we wake up L.A.T.E. When they wake up, you can stop somewhere for breakfast and let the kids run off some steam at a nearby park. When you get back on the road, their little tummies are full, they are happy and excited for what the rest of the trip entails!
Talk and Listen
Now, you might find this hard to believe, but driving is when we do the majority of our teaching about real world issues, about religion, politics, and current events. You have a captivated audience because they can’t go anywhere else! We debate each other, we discuss our differences of opinions, and contemplate solutions to the many problems that plague our world. I know, very heavy, but you’d be surprised how engrossed even an eight year old can get in a discussion about the First and Second Amendments, and you’d be even more surprised at the conclusions they come up with. We also take this time to listen to our kids. It’s here that we learn the most about their innermost thoughts and concerns and what they are excited about. If your kids are in school, you’ll learn about all the other kids as well … who is dating whom, who broke up with whom and why … very very exciting!
Focus on the Journey
The best thing about a road trip is you are in total control. You can stop whenever, wherever and for whatever reason you like. I love traveling in the winter, we fill (non-spill) mugs with coffee and hot chocolate, cuddle under blankets, belt out our favorite songs, and make some pretty crazy stops. One time we stopped at a ghost town, Ashcroft, near Aspen; another we went make-shift ice fishing on a frozen lake and yet another, we stopped at the Continental Divide and made snowmen and had a snowball fight. All these are memories our kids will hold forever, and still to this day make me laugh out loud!
Family road trips, especially during the holidays, are not supposed to be about getting from point A to point Z; they are about bonding, about laughing out loud together, about spontaneity, about being silly and letting go. If all you are focused on is getting to where you are going, you are not road tripping. You are driving, and you are in hell. Kids cannot sit for hours on end. Plotting a few cool stops for them breaks up the monotony of the dreaded long drive and makes the trip more of an adventure in their eyes! The name of the game is to have fun … Road tripping with your kids should be fun!